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By Craig Sesker, TheMat.com
EVANSTON, Ill. – The top-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes broke their own tournament scoring record en route to winning the Midlands Championships once again.
The Hawkeyes crowned four champions and turned in a strong overall performance as the Midlands Championships concluded on Tuesday night at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Iowa won its record 24th Midlands title by piling up 189 points to break its own record of 187.5 set in 2013. Illinois was second with 130.5 points, followed by Northwestern (106), Edinboro (101) and Virginia Tech (99.5).
Hawkeye senior Mike Evans repeated as champion at 174 pounds while classmate Bobby Telford won his first Midlands title after two runner-up finishes.
“Those are big accolades for those guys,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “It was nice to finish on a high with Telford – that was a big win for him. Those guys wrestled well and it’s easier for them to move forward because of that.”
The top-seeded Evans edged No. 2 Zac Brunson of Illinois 2-1 in the finals.
The second-seeded Telford used a last-second takedown to edge No. 1 Mike McMullan of Northwestern 4-2 in the heavyweight finals. McMullan beat Telford in the third-place match at the 2014 NCAA tournament.
“It’s a big win,” Telford said. “I had been in that situation three times and I had been second twice. That kind of lingers with a guy. This was my last chance at it. To paraphrase Coach Brands, this is a chance to get the last feather in your hat with a Midlands championship.”
Iowa sophomore Cory Clark (133) and teammate Nathan Burak (197) also won titles. Burak was competing unattached.
Clark finished a late takedown to defeat Zane Richards of Illinois 3-2 in a battle of top young wrestlers.
The top-seeded Burak, who has been slowed by a knee injury, downed No. 6 Timmy McCall of Wisconsin 4-3 in the finals.
Brands said he has not made a decision yet whether Burak will be pulled out of redshirt, with the Hawkeyes about to start its Big Ten dual-meet schedule.
“Everybody wants to know that, and I don’t know that,” Brands said. “You’ll know when he walks out on the mat in a Hawkeye singlet. I’m not God, and God hasn’t granted me special powers to look into his knee.
“Our doctors have pretty good technology, but they don’t know. That’s why we’re patient. If this was a cut and dried thing like a meniscus, he would have already been on the slab having it fixed. It’s not that simple of a procedure or a diagnosis. That’s as clear as I can be and that’s as detailed as I’ve been.”
Indiana’s Taylor Walsh was named Outstanding Wrestler and won the award for most points scored after claiming the title at 165. Walsh headlocked and pinned Northwestern’s Pierce Harger in the finals.
Returning champion and No. 1 seed Thomas Gilman of Iowa dropped a 3-1 overtime decision to No. 2 Joey Dance of Virginia Tech in the finals at 125.
“I don’t think we did enough offensively as a team overall,” Brands said. “We need to get to our offense more. When we initiate, we’re pretty good.”
Dance placed fourth at the 2014 NCAA tournament.
“Last year, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Dance said. “This year, I’m ready to win a national title. I was already really confident before, but this is another thing on my resume. I might see him again at NCAAs.”
Top seed and returning champion Mitchell Port of Edinboro earned a 4-1 win over No. 2 seed and 2014 NCAA runner-up Devin Carter of Virginia Tech in the 141 finals. Port won the Champion of Champions Award.
“I lost focus a little bit in that match, but my coaches helped keep me going,” Port said. “I needed to get some movement and get some action going. I just needed to get my feet moving and wrestle like I can.”
2014 NCAA champion Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern won his third overtime bout of the tournament to earn the title at 149 pounds. Tsirtsis outlasted Edinboro’s David Habat in the finals.
“I didn’t get the title here last year,” Tsirtsis said. “I took a couple losses. It feels nice to get a Midlands title under my belt after being in this tournament for three years.”
Top seed Isaiah Martinez of Illinois capped an impressive tournament at 157 pounds, stopping South Dakota State’s Cody Pack 6-3 in the finals.
Illinois-native Jack Dechow of Old Dominion put on a show in a 13-5 win over Penn’s Lorenzo Thomas in the 184 finals. Dechow was fourth in the country last season.
Joey Dance (Virginia Tech) dec. Thomas Gilman (Iowa), 3-1 SV2
Cory Clark (Iowa) dec. Zane Richards (Illinois), 3-2
Mitchell Port (Edinboro) dec. Devin Carter (Virginia Tech), 4-1
Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern) dec. David Habat (Edinboro), 2-1 TB1
Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) dec. Cody Pack (South Dakota State), 6-3
Taylor Walsh (Indiana) pinned Pierce Harger (Northwestern), 4:06
Mike Evans (Iowa) dec. Zac Brunson (Illinois), 2-1
Jack Dechow (Old Dominion) dec. Lorenzo Thomas (Penn), 13-5
Nathan Burak (Iowa-Unattached) dec. Timmy McCall (Wisconsin), 4-3
Bobby Telford (Iowa) dec. Mike McMullan (Northwestern), 4-2